The Craft: Legacy has a lot to say about gender roles and adolescence, but comes across as heavy-handed rather than illuminating.
Let me be completely transparent right off the bat: I’ve never seen the original The Craft. Frankly, I had never heard of it until a couple weeks ago. I know now that The Craft has a bit of a cult following, so they’ll just have to forgive my ignorance regarding the franchise. Because of my unfamiliarity, I have no idea how The Craft: Legacy stacks up against the original in terms of quality, tone, characters, etc. I’m coming into this one with an outside perspective, and also with the perspective of someone who is definitely not the film’s target demographic: I’m pretty sure this is directed towards fans of the original and teen girls, of which I am neither. Therefore, I’d recommend taking what I have to say here with a grain of salt.
The Craft: Legacy follows Lily (Cailee Spaeny), who moves to a new town with her mother (Michelle Monaghan), to live with the mother’s boyfriend, Adam (David Duchovny). There, she is recruited by a small coven of witches (Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, and Zoey Luna) at her new high school. With the help of her new friends, Lily begins to learn about her witch-powers; for those of you who may be wondering, though it has witches, I’d struggle to call The Craft: Legacy a “horror” movie. If you read my beginner’s guide to horror, it’s a soft “spooky movie.”
First off, the acting is a bit uneven throughout. The young cast actually delivers strong performances across the board, particularly Caille Spaeny, who is quite compelling in the lead role. It is also good to see positive trans representation delivered from trans actress Zoey Luna; her identity is mentioned and is a part of her character, but it doesn’t define every aspect of her being. Bear in mind, I’m a cis man and not at all an authority on trans representation in media, but it is still good to see.
Surprisingly enough, the weaker performances come from the older actors: David Duchovny seems bored throughout the movie, delivering a wooden, one-note performance; I’m coming down hard on him because he’s been in the industry for over thirty years, and we all know that he’s capable of doing better.
The Craft: Legacy’s craft (heh heh I’m very funny) is… Fine, I guess. I mean, there isn’t anything that’s straight-up “bad”: some of the special effects don’t look great, but they are used sparingly, so it’s not too distracting. The lighting is good, and the cinematography is effective if not ordinary. The film’s best technical aspect is probably it’s sound editing: the use of mixing and panning makes for a creative presentation of telepathy.
And now we come to the script: the bane of many movies I’ve discussed in the past. And sadly, The Craft: Legacy is another film where the writing leaves much to be desired. Frist, let’s address the dialogue. Granted, it has been a while since I was in high school and I’m pretty far-removed from what the kids are up to these days, but a lot of the dialogue really feels like it was written by someone who’s pushing forty trying to sound like a zoomer. Look, I get it, writing dialogue is hard, but I can’t think of any young people who still use the phrase “oh snap”, let alone use it multiple times unironically.
There are also a few dropped plot threads that I found frustrating: one of Lily’s step brothers is revealed to be a sleep-walker in the closest thing the film has to a jump-scare, but then it’s never brought up again. Was this thrown in there just for the purpose of having a jump-scare? The film also hints at how Adam’s style of parenting has affected his sons, but it’s really never explored. Clearly, at some level, Adam’s methods of fathering have, in some way, damaged his boys, distorting their world views to only care about strength and dominance. But outside of a brief conversation with the youngest son and the occasional hint that something is wrong, this is never unpacked in any meaningful way.
This transitions nicely into the film’s implementation of social commentary, in particular, its theme of masculinity and patriarchal power structures elevating men over women. Like with Antebellum, I don’t disagree with The Craft: Legacy’s core message, but the way this message is implemented isn’t exactly subtle: Adam is basically a stand-in for every far-right, Jordan Peterson-wannabe YouTube pseudo intellectual on the web. The witches also literally cast a spell on a bully at school to make him “woke” (their word, not mine), directly contrasting “bad” masculinity with “good” masculinity. Again, the message that the film is pushing is a good one, it’s just implemented really heavy-handedly. At least a character isn’t literally placed on an elevated platform to lecture at us about the film’s beliefs, so credit where it’s due, I suppose.
Again, since I haven’t seen the original, and have no idea if The Craft: Legacy would appeal to fans of the 1996 flick. The Craft: Legacy, however, tackles a lot of great topics that have been addressed better in other films: if you want a film about teenage girls’ adolescence, check out Ladybird (2017) or Eighth Grade (2018). If you want a film that challenges western ideas of masculinity, I’d recommend Billy Elliot (2000) or Moonlight (2016). If you just want a fun witch movie, you might as well just watch The Witches of Eastwick (1987) or Hocus Pocus (1993) again.